I had this love/hate relationship with art class in elementary school. I think largely it had to do with my tendencies toward perfectionism. I would have this vision of what I wanted to create and somehow it never translated well into reality. I would get horribly frustrated - also because I have a tendency to compare myself to others - and wonder why my artwork wasn’t as good as my friend Katie’s or Meghan’s. My still life would look horribly….lifeless while theirs looked like fruit you could pick up and eat off the page. My color explorations - where we’d learn about adding and mixing colors and whites and blacks - would churn out colors like muted olive green and mucky brown while they would get sunset hues and rich blues. My self portrait looked monstrous...theirs looked like themselves in a mirror. I would turn in my work feeling dejected and resentful because I didn’t think it was any good.
Except -- when it came to clay. Because with clay, if you don’t like how it looks….you can smoosh it and start again. And again, and again.
One of the earliest images that Scripture gives us of God is God as potter. Yes, the first chapter of Genesis we see this God as cosmic creator, the brooding Spirit hovering over the formless void, the planet flinging, mountains-raising, oceans-filling Almighty, All-powerful Being who seems separate and distant from creation as it is spoken into existence - though this is the first story we read if we flip the Bible to the first chapter of Genesis.
Yet if we continue though to the second chapter, we find a story of a God who is right in the thick of things as creation springs to life - a God who brings forth streams to water the ground, who dips hands into the red dust covering the Earth (the Hebrew word for this dirt is adamah), makes clay from the water and the soil, and forms the first human - Adam...literally soil creature...and breathes life into this being. Scholars believe that this story is actually the older of the two creation accounts - coming from an oral tradition where tales were told around campfires, passed on from generation to generation to wrestle with the big questions of life. This is a God with dirty hands, who visibly expends effort to create, who is not far removed from the fruit of God’s labor. It’s an image of God as a sculptor...a potter...an artist. Whereas the first creation story rings with the majestic music of the spheres, the second creation story exudes earthiness and groundedness - a vision of a God in process working with creation, who guides and shapes and molds us...and who breathes into us the Breath of Life.
I really like this image of God as Potter...a God who is continually in the process of shaping creation -- who works with us and in us -- molding us, shaping us, guiding us. Creating a sculpture or a pot out of clay takes patience and attention - to smooth out the rough edges, to tease out the air bubbles, to center and recenter the clay when it wobbles off the wheel. You can’t really mash and twist the clay - every action is deliberate.
As I think about God as the Potter and us as the clay, I think about how God doesn’t bully us into shape. God doesn’t force God’s will upon us….which isn’t to say that sometimes God working and creating in us is always easy or pleasant. God’s movement in our lives sometimes means we face hard truths about ourselves or are asked to do difficult things - but all of it points to God making beautiful things - works of art - with our lives for the sake of God’s holy and transforming work in the world.
And when we stray...when we falter...God doesn’t take us off the wheel and throw us in the trash...but God takes us….centers us...and creates anew.
God is always at work in us -- God is always creating us...forming and fashioning us...we are all works in progress.
Consider a moment - what is God creating in you right now? How is God shaping you...or, perhaps, where do you yearn for God to work in you?
We have some play dough here….[hand out lumps]....take a few moments prayerfully thinking about that question….what is God creating in you right now….and as you pray…form a symbol of what that might be with the play dough….or even just feel it in your hands...let us consider that question together.
Anyone want to share? Come forward and place your creation on the altar.
I pray that we continually be open to the work that God is doing in us in every part of our lives - even the parts that maybe we prefer God to stay out of. I pray that we let God fashion and form us more fully as God’s people - set apart for the work of being witnesses of God’s great love for us and for others and for this island. I pray that we work together to remind ourselves that we are a people on a journey….people in process...that God is working in us...and that there is no part that is free from God’s transforming touch, from God’s patient and steady hand, from God’s reshaping power so that we may be willing to go forth to participate in the healing and mending of a broken and hurting world.
Let us continually invite God to shape and mold us. To be the clay in God’s hand, who creates us - recreates us -- into vessels for God’s holy work. Amen.
Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and three year old son and 6 month old daughter, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.